The Special Libraries Association has pulled up stakes that have been firmly planted in New York City for the past 46 years and purchased a $1.1 million property near Dupont Circle.

The choice to move to Washington was made after the SLA board had looked at more than 90 buildings in the New York metropolitan area only to find a property in Washington that was attractive and available for a much lower purchase price than equivalent properties in New York, said David Malinak, SLA's newly appointed director of communications.

SLA's purchase fit in with the organization's goal of concentrating on government relations and bringing its group closer to affiliated organizations, such as the Association of Research Libraries and the American Library Association, which are both based here.

The group used money earned through fund-raising events and corporate and member donations to buy the $1.1 million town house, which had been the headquarters of the American Psychiatric Association until the summer of 1982.

The SLA plans to hire 24 area residents and spend $350,000 on renovations to the structure and will occupy the basement and first two floors. The group plans to lease two other floors.

The bulk of the group's membership does research and development for corporate and financial institutions.

Recent hires at SLA include: Beth E. Cobb-Dolan, former director of administration at the Alpha Center for Health Planning, as assistant executive director, administrative services; David Malinak, former communications specialist at the Cooperative Housing Foundation, as director of communications; and Kathy Warye, former manager of continuing education at the American Academy of Otolaryngology, as director of professional development.

The SLA has also hired Elsa B. Williams, previously marketing and production editor for Resources for the Future, as director of publishing services; Bill Johnson, former editor of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, as editor, non-serial publications; Lori Balsam, former assistant editor of the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics publication called Genesis, as assistant editor periodicals. Richard D. Battaglia, a staffer who moved from New York, has been promoted to assistant executive director of program services. TRADE

The American Watch Association and the U.S. Secret Service have waged war against the counterfeiters of at least $250 million in bogus watches that, according to industry experts, are sold in this country every year. After aiding in the arrest of more than 21 counterfeiters last month in Miami, Sol Flick, chairman of AWA's Anticounterfeiting Task Force and general counsel of the North America Watch Corp., said that it was the first step in a nationwide fight to stop counterfeiters . The AWA anticounterfeiting squad gathers information on manufacturers and suppliers of bogus watches and turns it over to the Justice Department and the Secret Service, which then complete the investigation. Flick said one of the biggest problems with the sale of counterfeit watches is that they carry familiar brand names but are not of high quality and that when they malfunction, the consumer blames the trademark owner.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus, the headquarters and governing body of the country's 191 Better Business Bureaus, has selected Robert E. Mercer as its chairman. In his acceptance statement, Mercer promoted the Better Business Bureau's self-regulation systems as the "best single chance to prove to the consumer he or she ultimately is our only real avenue of business success." Self-regulatory services offered to consumers by the bureau are reports on companies, a mediation/arbitration service that works to resolve consumer complaints outside of courtrooms and a philanthropic advisory council that sets standards for charitable organizations. Mercer, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., also has served as the director of the Highway Users Federation for Safety and Mobility and as a member of the Conference Board, The Joint Council on Economic Education and the Business Council. PROFESSIONAL

The International Association of Financial Planning has chosen two local women to fill top posts in its 22,000-member group. Alexandra Armstrong, president of Alexandra Armstrong Advisors, a financial planning firm, has been elected the first female president of IAFP. Armstrong is active on several advisory boards in the city, including Friends of the Kennedy Center and the Boy Scouts of the America National Capital Area Chapter. She also served as president of the National Association of Women Business Owners from 1980 to 1981 and the treasurer of the National Women's Forum from 1983 to 1985. Judith A. Buckalew, former special assistant for public liaison to President Reagan, has joined the IAFP as director of government relations. Buckalew also worked as a legislative assistant for the Labor and Human Resources Committee of the Senate. In addition, she has been director of policy research at the National Council of Health Centers and a policy analyst and adviser for the Office of Policy and Legislation.

Constance U. Battle, the medical director and chief executive officer of the National Hospital for Sick Children, has been elected president of the 8,000-member American Medical Women's Association.

The Association for Commuter Transportation, a local association that reportedly lost 20 percent of its membership last year because of the cancellation of its member insurance policy, is on the mend. "In fact, our association is healthy, considering the recent problems," said ACT Executive Director Sandra Spence. The group initially lost 85 members but, according to Spence, its membership has now stabilized.